Year 2009 and Its Journal

Hello All.

It has been ages since the last time I wrote here. Happy New Year to all readers. May this new year brings more prosperous plannings and fruitful undertakings. May you also find a good leisure to escape all the stress and hustle-bustle of current global living style.

The year 2009 has ended. However, there was one article remaining that I owed this column to share about Cdr Malik Sulaiman. May he also finds more advancement in 2010 in yachting and sports in overall.

Friday, October 30, 2009, 09.24 AM
Cover Story: Anchors aweigh!
With the eighth installment of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta just months away, HARIS HUSSAIN gets a taste of what it feels like to be on the high seas.
“TACKING!” yells the skipper of the Royal Malaysian Navy yacht Zuhal, RMN Commander Malik Sulaiman.

The deck becomes a flurry of activity as mates run to their stations, clipping carabiners to safety cables, securing rigs, manning winches and checking lines, preparing for the next maneouvre.

Everyone notes their positions on the deck, careful not to step on lines that could snag or trip them and throw them overboard once the skipper makes his turn.

Off to the port side, a yellow buoy bobs in the distance. The mainsail on this 15.8m-long boat is flapping in the breeze.

The sea off Kuah in Langkawi is calm and we’re doing a languorous 2.6 knots but we’re already tilting at a crazy angle; I’m guessing once we round the buoy, we’ll be whipping the ponies and going hell bent for the horizon.
We’re hauling the mail now! Waves break on the bow as Zuhal barrels along at 18 knots.
Behind us, Zuhal’s sister ship, Zuhrah, is gaining on us. She had already beaten us on the first run, and Malik is determined not to let them get a clean sweep.

The words of the commodore of the Navy’s yacht club, Capt Mohd Hatim Saad, 48, are still fresh on everybody’s mind.

“Gentlemen, I do not intend to be on the losing boat.”

Malik, 43, glances behind, turns his gaze to the mainsail, and then to the marker buoy. He eyeballs the opposition again behind his Oakleys and without word, starts his turn.

I grab the railing as Zuhal turns on a dime and whips past the buoy. The violent turn rolls the boat to a 30-degree angle and everyone struggles to hang on. Up at the fo’c’sle, deckhands hoist the spinnaker. It billows and catches the wind.

Almost immediately, the boat thrusts forward, its bow slicing through the water like a hot knife through warm butter.

We’re hauling the mail now! Waves break on the bow as Zuhal barrels along at 18 knots

I look up at the base of the mainmast at a clump of digital displays — from heading to our speed in knots — and see that we are clocking a zippy18 knots. We’re leaving Zuhrah in the dust.

Stoked after gaining this tactical edge, the crew fine-tunes the rigging on the boat. Any drag-inducing protrusions are locked away and stowed. It’s down to the wire now.

The gap between Zuhrah and us is widening and for the first time in two hours, this crew is chugging along like a well-oiled machine.

And then the unthinkable happens.
We’ve got wind in our sail! Note the boat’s attitude in relation to the horizon. – Pictures by Haris Hussain

Stressed beyond its limits, a cable that holds the spinnaker snaps with a loud crack.

Almost immediately, the sail goes limp. Our collective hearts sink.

As the crew stows the spinnaker, no one notices that the Zuhrah is slowly closing the distance.

“Check mast! C’mon, boys!” Mohd Hatim yells to the crew.

We’re mast-to-mast now and the finish line is just a few metres away. The crews trade good-natured jibes and put-downs, but Malik, a silver medallist in the Super Moth Class (open category) in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, is single-minded in his resolve. He wants this race. The tension aboard Zuhal is palpable.

We’ve got wind in our sail! Note the boat’s attitude in relation to the horizon. - Pictures by Haris Hussain

The marshals from the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club finally blow the horn, signaling the end of the race. The mood aboard Zuhal is subdued. No one dares to celebrate. This one is too close to call.

Moments later, the race marshals make it official. Zuhal had won this round by the skin of her teeth. The crew goes wild and the boat erupts in celebration.

The two-boat race was a prelude to the eighth installment of the Royal Langkawi International Regatta, scheduled for Jan 8-15, next year.

It was also a chance for the Navy to showcase its two boats that will take part in the event.

Mohd Hatim says Zuhal and Zuhrah’s crews will spend the next two months at the RLYC, honing their seamanship in a series of work-ups before the event.

“We want to give our boys enough time to prepare and get acclimatised to the sea and wind conditions in the competition area.”

Organised by the RLYC, the RLIR was first held in 2003 and has become a popular race among sailors.

It is already a permanent fixture in the Asian Regatta Calendar and has become one of the world’s premier sailing events.

Abdul Rahman Mahani, senior manager of the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, says the races proper will be from Jan 11-15, 2010 and will be divided into several categories — racing class, the sportsboat class, multi-hulls and club cruisers.

This year’s event saw the participation of 33 boats.

Last year, the secretariat introduced the round-the-island race format and plans to retain it due to its popularity among the participants.

“Apart from the usual windward/leeward courses, challenging courses are also being designed for next year’s event,” he says.

• Watch a short video of the race. Click here
CAPT Mohd Hatim Saad is an old sea dog.

A 25-year veteran of the Royal Malaysian Navy, he’s right out of Hollywood central casting — raspy voice, mischievous grin, a complexion that’s been seared repeatedly from countless hours of being exposed to the sun and a sense of humour that’s unlike that of professional shark hunter Quint, Robert Shaw’s character in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

“I love the sea,” he says.

“You won’t understand it now, but I guarantee you, when this is over, you’ll get what I mean.”

That grin again.

Mohd Hatim is the Commodore of the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Yacht Club, an administrative post that doesn’t allow him to be out at sea with the boys as often as he would like to. But he admits with a smile that he still jumps at it, every chance he gets.

Spend some time with him and it’s clear that he’s very proud of the Navy’s two racers/cruisers — Zuhal and Zuhrah — and the men who make up the crew.

Built at a cost of RM4.75 million each, the boats, based in Lumut, Perak, have been fitted out with the latest in sat-nav technology which enables them to plot their position with amazing accuracy, a whizz-bang communications suite, and all the creature comforts one would expect of a modern yacht, including air conditioning, two toilets (heads, in Navy parlance), 11 beds (bunks), and a small kitchen (galley) with a three-burner stove.

The boats are of carbon and epoxy composite construction with post-cured low-density ‘super light’ balsa in high load areas forward.

Both are powered by a 56-horsepower Yanmar turbo-diesel engine. Fuel capacity is 200 litres.

The two boats were designed by Farr Yacht Design Ltd, in Annapolis, Maryland, (home to the prestigious US Naval Academy) and built by DK Yachts of Batu Berendam, Malacca.

The contract was for the “design, construction, installation, testing, supply and delivery of two 52-foot sloops for training” for the Royal Malaysian Navy. The boats were delivered on budget on Dec 22, 2005, ahead of schedule.


Fo’c’sle: A superstructure in the bow of a merchant ship where the crew is housed.

Gybe: Changing direction with the wind aft; to change from one tack to another by turning the stern through the wind.

Leeward: Downwind.

Mainmast: A ship’s principal mast.

Mainsail: Boomed sail projecting aft from the mainmast.

Port: Left.

Spinnaker: A large, light, balloon-shaped sail set forward of the mainsail when running before the wind.

Starboard: Right.

Tack: Working to windward by sailing close-hauled on alternate courses so that the wind is first on one side of the boat, then on the other.

Windward: Upwind.

Zuhal’s skipper Malik Sulaiman keeps his eyes on the marker buoy while the rest of the crew hang over the side to prevent the boat from tipping over.